MANILA, Philippines — Government is bent on expanding the production of low-glycemic white corn seeds to reduce the incidence of diabetes and boost food security.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB-IPB) have signed an agreement to implement the program, noting that white corn is the staple food of about 20 percent of Filipinos, especially in Visayas and Mindanao.
DA planners are actually working to promote consumption of white corn, which has better health benefits than rice, the traditional staple.
Unlike rice, white corn has low glycemic index (GI). Low GI makes white corn slower to digest, thereby releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream, and lessening the risk of diabetes.
White corn also has more protein, more lysine and tryptophan, more dietary fiber, more minerals, and more antioxidants than when eating rice alone.
Government is trying to educate urban consumers on the health benefit and food preparations of white corn. It hopes that as white corn becomes part of the Filipino diet, the country may reduce dependence on rice and improve food sufficiency.
DA has been funding the seed production of white corn in Los Baños, Laguna, and plans to sustain the activity on a yearly basis.
UPLB-IPB, which is producing the seed, is propagating a recommended variety, the high-yielding IPB Var 6. IPB Var 6. This variety has a yield that is nearly comparable to commercial white corn hybrid. Based on the national corn testing, the yield of IPB Var 6 in Luzon averaged 5.84 metric tons (MT) per hectare, with 5.45 MT per hectare in the Visayas and 4.47 MT in Mindanao.
Under Phase 1 of the program, DA released P15 million for seed production for which a total of 10,000 bags at 18 kilos per bag were produced.
DA released P25 million for Phase 2 and the amount is good for about 22,000 bags.
Half these seeds, particularly the foundation and registered white corn seeds, have already been distributed to DA’s regional offices for mass propagation.
Moreover, under a proposed program for a continuing seed production, DA will release P7 million yearly over the next five years.
Aside from giving consumers the health benefits, white corn will impact significantly in reducing hunger and malnutrition in the uplands.
“Our aim is to bring technologies to the boondocks where there are many people don’t have much to eat, according to Dr. Artemio M. Salazar, UPLB-IPB deputy director and National Corn RDE (Research, Development and Extension) Network head.
“You don’t need capital-intensive irrigation facilities because corn grows wherever there is rain. The only other thing we have to provide them is the corn mill. We also helped develop an inexpensive and mobile mini corn mill which we believe is a critical component in this effort to provide nutritious and inexpensive food to our compatriots in the far flung rural areas.”
The mill only costs around P100,000, far lower than the price of high-capacity machines in the market. While promoting white corn for nutrition and livelihood in uplands, white corn will also have a huge health benefit among residents in Metro Manila and other urban areas where there is high incidence of diabetes.
“Later on we’ll turn over these to the private sector because there is a big demand for it because many Filipinos are now diabetics. And this is the perfect food for diabetics,” said Salazar.
Diabetes is a leading degenerative disease and a major cause of death in the Philippines.